Is there more than meets the eye in Palace vape ban?
Whether it's by chance or by design, President Duterte just made a big move in steering away Filipino youth from a marijuana-laced vaping craze that could potentially snuff out lives.
But if the supposed intelligence reports reaching Malacañang is consistent with the disturbing tip that the Manila Bulletin received, then it's more likely that the Chief Executive intended to nip that deadly craze in the bud.
It was late last month when President Duterte, in a surprise announcement, ordered the ban on the public use and importation of vaping products, including e-cigarettes. Suffice it
to say that it caught the local vaping community – of which there are many proponents – off-guard.
"It is toxic, and government has the power to issue measures to protect public health and public interest. Better stop it because I will order your arrest if you do it in a room. I am ordering the law enforcement agencies to arrest anybody vaping in public,” the President said.
According to Venzon (not his real name), 36, an informant who reached out to this daily, liquid marijuana has already found its way to Metro Manila, having personally sampled the substance during-guess what? A vape party.
Venzon, a former drug dependent, said he was invited by a friend and he attended out of curiosity. He said the people at the venue, which was in Quezon City, "were mostly middle-aged individuals who appeared well-to-do."
"I was handed a vaping device by my friend. He told me to give it a try, 'ibang klase yan, pare (that's a different kind, compadre),' he told me. I took only one puff, and I was 'high.' I instantly knew what it was," Venzon narrated.
Deciding to play dumb, Venzon asked his friend what it was. "'Chongke,' he told me. He boasted that one of these 'special' cartridges alone costs P5,000," the informant said. The party took place only last November 22, a couple of days after Duterte declared the vape ban.
Despite a highly-publicized move from legislators to have medical cannabis or marijuana legalized under the current administration, Duterte last March said he would never allow its lawful use. "Not in my time, maybe some other time, some other president maybe,” he said.
Marijuana is tagged as a banned substance under Republic Act (RA) 9165, or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. It shares that distinction alongside more notorious substances cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and shabu.
Under the law, mere possession of at least 500 grams of marijuana, or at least 10 grams of marijuana concentrate (resin or resin oil), is punishable by life in prison plus a fine of up to P10 million. Carrying lesser quantities of the drug is punishable by 12 to 20 years in prison plus a fine of up to P500,000.
It was last June when Newsweek reported the first recorded death from marijuana use in the United States. The fatality, a 39-year-old woman from Louisiana, reportedly died from vaping tetrahydrocannabinol oil.
Known for its shortcut THC, tetrahydrocannabinol is the main psychoactive compound in the marijuana plant that gives that high sensation. It can be consumed by smoking marijuana.
There are already local officials who believe that highly-addictive THC or liquid marijuana is being abused by Filipinos, particularly those who have the cash to burn. (Betheena Kae Unite, Joseph Pedrajas, Ellson Quismorio)